[Tweeters] Westport Seabirds Trip Report, Saturday May 14 2016

bill shelmerdine georn1 at hotmail.com
Mon May 16 21:31:47 PDT 2016

Saturday’s Westport Seabirds trip featured exciting birds, great mammal encounters, clam seas, and a mix of weather conditions. Weather on the ocean was nearly the opposite of the forecast, with frequent rain in the morning and dry and calm conditions for the afternoon. Avian highlights included a single Murphy’s Petrel (seen by only a few on board), Manx Shearwater (inshore), Tufted Puffin (2 offshore), a pair of Ancient Murrelets along with all the expected species. Quite unusual was the number of warblers encountered, including 4 species recorded (Wilsons, MacGillivray's, Townsends, and Yellow) and several other passerines left unidentified. It is indeed a strange day offshore when the number of Wilson’s Warblers exceeds the number of Northern Fulmar recorded.

The trip was an outer slope trip to beyond Grays Canyon and 125 West. The days course took us west through the shrimp fleet fishing on the shelf inside of Grays Canyon to beyond the canyon for a chum stop in deep water, then south to some boats fishing for Whiting near the edge of the shelf before turning back toward Grays Harbor.

Not far beyond the Harbor entrance a Manx Shearwater came off the water with a small group of Sooty Shearwaters. Unfortunately that group did not settle back onto the water and continued until lost from sight. Inshore waters produced a variety of nearshore species including many Common Terns and strikingly plumaged Pacific Loons. Soon after we spotted several blows and before long were surrounded by 10 to 15 Humpback Whales, with Sooty Shearwaters, Black-legged Kittiwakes, and several other species working the area. We lingered for a while, then turned back west toward the shrimp fleet. Before reaching the boats we spotted several fins in the distance and soon we were treated to a pod of five accommodating Orca. We photographed the group, eventually concluding they were one of the transient pods.

At the fishing boats we found small concentrations of birds including the days first good looks at Pink-footed Shearwater and our first Black-footed Albatross. As we entered deeper waters over Grays Canyon we picked up the first of many Sabine’s Gulls, Fork-tailed Storm Petrels, Red-necked Phalarope, and Cassin’s Auklets. During one of the more persistent squalls a Murphy’s Petrel crossed in front of the boat working quickly south. Unfortunately only a handful of participants were able to get on the bird as most participants were in the back of the boat at the time.

At the deep chum stop the weather settled and began to cooperate. Close views and good photo ops were obtained for Black-footed Albatross, Fork-tailed Storm Petrel, Sabines Gulls, and Red-necked Phalarope. From the Chum Spot we headed south toward the whiting fleet, picking up Tufted Puffin (2 birds in fine breeding plumage), Parasitic, and Pomerine Jeager. A second pass through the shrimp fleet on the return brought more close encounters and photos opportunities. The trip back to the harbor was rather uneventful by comparison, thought the usual feeding activity near the harbor mouth brought excitement toward the end of the trip. Two Surfbirds, the seasons first Heermann’s Gulls, and roosting Black-legged Kittiwakes were among the highlights along the jetty.

The mammal show for the day was a good one with Humpback Whale,Orca, Dall’s and Harbor Porpoise, Northern Fur Seal, Northern Elephant Seal, and Harbor Seal, Northern (Stellers) and California Sea Lion rounding out the list. The full list of species and numbers will be posted to the Westport Seabirds Website. Spotters for the trip were Scott Mills and Bill Shelmerdine. Many thanks to Phil and Chris Anderson for providing another great trip aboard the Monte Carlo. For information on upcoming trips and reservations please check out our website at www.westportseabirds.com.

Bill Shelmerdine
Olympia, WA

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